Fifteen co-op volunteer linemen departed the country on September 16 for Guatemala. There they will build powerlines in two isolated villages – Pie de Cerro and Tierra Blanca Salinas – in the region of Ixcán near the Mexican border, providing first-time electricity to 100 families, two health centers, two elementary schools and five churches.
Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none. In a spirit of cooperation, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) and the Colorado Rural Electric Association partnered with NRECA International, the philanthropic arm for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to electrify these poverty-stricken villages in rural Guatemala.
The project will consist of 130 poles in approximately 4.34 miles of primary line and 3.86 miles of secondary line. The villages are tucked away near a rainforest. Most of the terrain will be flat, but about one mile of line will be built in dense rainforest surroundings. The homes will receive a minimum of four lightbulbs, two light switches and electrical outlets.
The locals live in humble means without running water, food refrigeration, or the ability to use electric appliances for house chores or to aid in their economic growth. The villagers depend on farming operations for economic sustainment; they produce corn, beans, cardamom seeds, cocoa and some vegetables. A local municipal utility, Empresa Municipal Rural de Electricidad (EMRE), based in Playa Grande, Ixcán, will maintain the powerlines once they are built. The volunteers are scheduled to return to the United States on October 4, 2018.
“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots,” says OAEC General Manager Chris Meyers. “It reinforces our commitment to improve the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.”
The following Oklahoma co-op volunteers are a part of this mission: Scotty Branham (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Curtis Chlouber (Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.), Mike Green (Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Durant-Okla.), Team Leader Derec Janaway (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Michael Musil (Central Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.), Brad Scott (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), James Willcox (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), and Mike Wolfe (Southwest Rural Electric Association, Tipton-Okla.).
“We are grateful for co-op linemen who are willing to leave their homes for an extended period of time to empower far-away communities,” says OAEC International Committee Chairman Jimmy Taylor. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”
Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, The Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit: http://tinyurl.com/energytrails